What’s in a name?


By Deborah Loh, The Nut Graph

IF there is one enduring debate in Malaysia, it is whether this country is an Islamic or secular state. No less because successive prime ministers keep making declarations that it is an Islamic state to much public confusion.

Islam is the official religion of the federation. But what does “official” mean? Are we being made to choose between an Islamic state or a secular one?

At the Bar Council‘s launch of its Constitutional Law Committee’s MyConstitution or PerlembagaanKu campaign on 13 Nov, the public forum that followed the launch saw this issue being raised again with a question from the floor.

What is Malaysia?

The panel of lawyers and academics were divided. Human rights and constitutional lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said a secular state was good for Islam to flourish.

Universiti Malaya law lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom said the Federal Constitution was a secular document, from which even the syariah courts derived their powers. The state was secular, he argued, because none of its institutions got their powers from religious authority, but from the constitution.